Friday, September 19, 2014

The preacher complains to God

Read Jeremiah 12.

If you have ever complained to God, you are in good company.  So did Jeremiah.  His attitude was not one of rebellion but bewilderment.  He knew God was right and the prophet wanted to understand what God was doing.

In the previous chapter, the LORD warned Jeremiah of a plot against his life.  Part of Jeremiah's confusion had to do with the prosperity of those who opposed God's message and who desired to kill the messenger.  In addition to their apparent wealth, there was a huge lack of spiritual integrity with the opposition.  It seemed that God had blessed them, yet "you are near in their mouth and far from their heart." (v.2)  Why was God allowing this?

The response from God challenged the prophet.  In essence He asked in verse 5, "If you cannot take this pressure, what will you do when things get worse?"  And, they will.  Some of Jeremiah's enemies were among his own family (v.6).  God, then announced in no uncertain terms that He would "abandon" Judah and allow other nations to destroy the land (vv.7-13).

Many have used such passages to declare that God is through with the Jews and spiritualize all subsequent references in the Bible to the contrary.  If one continues reading, however, the abandonment is not forever.  This immediate punishment will last for 70 years at the hands of the Babylonian Empire.  Ultimately, in the Millennial Kingdom, Israel and the nations will experience a complete restoration.

"I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land." (v.15)  However, there is a qualifier.  "But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD."

We are living in between these two major events: the Babylonian captivity and the coming earthly reign of Christ.  But now every individual is being held accountable for listening to God and responding with genuine faith.  "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15)

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